Sports! Well, kind of. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the NFL Draft is the lone professional sporting event we have to look forward to for the foreseeable future.
The fully-digital draft is scheduled to take place from April 23rd through the 25th. With two first-round picks (13th and 31st overall), the San Francisco 49ers will look to bolster their championship-caliber roster as they look to avoid a Super Bowl hangover in 2020.
In addition to their first-round pick, the 31st, the 49ers added No. 13 with the surprising trade of DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.
With their newly acquired pick, the 49ers have the opportunity to add a true, blue-chip prospect. The early chatter has indicated that San Francisco may look to add a playmaker on offense opposite of Deebo Samuel at the wide receiver position. Should that come to fruition, the 49ers will have several options from which to chose with their mid-first round pick.
The Big Three at Wide Receiver
Moments after the 49ers acquired their new first-round pick from the Colts, speculation as to which of the top three wide receivers they preferred began. Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), and Henry Ruggs III (Alabama) are the three names at the top of pretty much everybody’s rankings at the wide receiver position.
At pick 13, the 49ers will more than likely have a chance to draft one of these three playmakers. Which of the three will be there? Who is the best? Who will Kyle Shanahan like the most? Those questions have circulated through NFL circles the past few weeks and will remain unanswered until the 49ers turn in their selection on draft night.
Which of the three is the best wide receiver? The majority of draft-heads, scouts and experts seem to believe its Jeudy, and I would agree with them. Hands down the best route-runner in this draft class, Jeudy is explosive, dynamic and is often compared to Odell Beckham Jr.
Weight: 193 pounds
Arm length: 32 1/8th inches
Hand size: 9 1/2 inches
40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds
Vertical jump: 35 inches
I’m going to link some highlight threads for each player, because everyone loves a good highlight thread.
Jeudy is an elite route runner, who is dangerous with the football in his hands. For someone with his footwork and quick-twitch hips, he has big yards-after-catch potential, something Shanahan loves to see from his pass-catchers.
Jeudy is so polished and NFL-ready, but there are some knocks on him as a prospect. For one, he is prone to drops, and will sometimes take his eyes off the ball. Secondly, he is the least physical of the three. He’s a monster, but on tape he can sometimes shy away from contact. Third, he has a slim frame, which could be an issue on contested catches.
There has been talk that the Jacksonville Jaguars could take Jeudy with the ninth overall pick, but more than likely, we’ll see Jeudy go somewhere in the range of picks 11-15.
All three of the New York Jets (pick 11), Las Vegas Raiders (pick 12) and 49ers (pick 13) will be targeting a receiver in this draft, which could result in the three top receivers flying off the board before pick 14.
NOTE: Jeudy has not yet met with the 49ers for a pre-draft visit
Jeudy is often considered the best receiver in this group. But some argue that Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb deserves that designation. Lamb is another explosive receiver, who is capable of playing all over the field. My favorite quality about Lamb? The guy is tough. He will fight and fight for extra yards and seems to crave contact.
While I would agree that Jeudy is the more polished and complete receiver prospect, I believe Lamb is the better fit for the 49ers offense. I watch his film and I see a dynamic playmaker who can complement the physical play styles of George Kittle and Samuel.
Weight: 198 pounds
Arm length: 32 1/4th inches
Hand size: 9 1/4 inches
40-yard dash: 4.5 seconds
Vertical jump: 34.5 inches
What Lamb does better than Jeudy, aside from playing more physical, is that he’s better on contested catches. He’s a guy who has the frame to go up and bring down the ball while fighting with a defender. He has great hands, probably the best hands of the three. He is often compared to DeAndre Hopkins, who was just recently traded to the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals. You can trust Lamb with the ball, and you can trust that he’s going to scratch and claw for extra yards.
While Lamb is a fast receiver, he doesn’t have the elite speed you will find with Jeudy and even more so, Ruggs. With the traits these receivers possess, it’s definitely a trade-off. With Jeudy, you have the elite route-running, but with Lamb, his route running could use some work. Another potential concern is the competition he went up against in college. Oklahoma plays in the Big 12, which offers very little in terms of good defense. Yeah, his tape is very impressive, but how will he fare against NFL defenders?
Note: Lamb has met with the 49ers for a pre-draft visit
Henry Ruggs III
The wide receiver group at Alabama is just ridiculous, absolutely loaded with talent. You have Jeudy as the number one, or maybe even the second-best receiver behind third-year star DeVonta Smith. Then you have the speedster Ruggs at number three.
At the combine, he recorded a blazing-fast time of 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash, almost reaching the all-time record of 4.22 seconds set by John Ross in 2017. Ruggs is ridiculously fast. Do you know who else is ridiculously fast? Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill, to whom Ruggs is often compared.
Weight: 188 pounds
Arm length: 30 1/2 inches
Hand size: 10 1/8th inches
40-yard dash: 4.27 seconds
Vertical jump: 42.0 inches
What stands out to me when looking at Ruggs’ measurable’s is that vertical jump. The smallest receiver of the three has the highest vertical by seven inches over Jeudy.
Do you like hops? Then you’ll want to watch this clip of a young Ruggs dunking over somebody during his high school basketball days.
Out of the three receivers, I have seen Ruggs mocked to the 49ers the most. That may be due to the fact that Jeudy and Lamb (the two best receivers) could be off the board by pick 13, or it could be due to Ruggs’ speed making a huge fan out of Shanahan. Not to mention, he is also a physical receiver, he plays much bigger than his size.
There’s a lot to like about Ruggs. The elite, game-changing speed is one thing, but the vertical leap and physical play-style are impressive as well. One thing I noticed while watching his film is that Alabama had Ruggs in motion quite a bit. The 49ers use pre-snap motion as much as anybody in the NFL. He was also used in jet-sweeps and end-arounds, plays that we see a lot from Samuel.
There are clues pointing to Ruggs being a Kyle Shanahan guy, and that may play out next Thursday night.
What’s not to like about him? First off, his route running could use work. When he has the ball in his hands and separation, then its game over, but in the NFL, there will be plenty of times where he will need to win on his routes. Second, his size. He is on the leaner side, and the shorter side, and his catch radius is on the smaller side. At this point, it feels like I’m nitpicking, but these are all valid concerns.
NOTE: Ruggs has met with the 49ers for a pre-draft visit, they met at the combine.
Consensus: You can’t go wrong with any of them
All three wide receiver prospects — Jeudy, Lamb and Ruggs — were so much fun to watch in college. If the 49ers decide to use the 13th pick on a receiver, any of the three would be a great pick. There is some separation in my eyes regarding Jeudy and Lamb compared to Ruggs. Jeudy is the best receiver, the most complete player, while Lamb would probably be the best fit for the 49ers, with Ruggs coming in third as the game-changing speed demon.
With all three being great choices for the 49ers, all we can do now is debate this topic to death. We can assume that Kyle Shanahan would prefer Lamb and Ruggs over Jeudy, but honestly we won’t know for sure until the pick is announced. Until then, we can look forward to plenty more wide receiver debate.